Every year, the world seems to get ever more anchored in technology and social media. The pressure is ramping up, and advisors are making an effort to become more “digitally available” to their prospects and clients. And yes, that includes trying to crack the code on “Facebook for financial advisors”.
This has created an interesting shift in our industry. Online marketing topics have become the mainstays of advisor conferences. Many compliance departments have no idea what to do with this trend.
And, of course, there’s conflicting advice online.
I dug into this topic recently after a conversation with a fellow advisor. Let’s call him James. James shared his disappointment with online marketing. He had tried Facebook marketing hoping to reach more prospects. He started a company page and shared a bunch of articles. That didn’t work. He then invested several thousands of dollars in Facebook ads and promoted posts. Still, crickets.
And so, James asked me over a beer, is this social media marketing just a fad? Does it actually generate results for any advisors out there? What are those advisors doing, exactly, to make it work? And, finally, does it have to cost a fortune?
Those are all fair questions. Here’s what I know from pouring over industry research and investing over $100K into building Facebook marketing campaigns for financial advisors.
Digital marketing is definitely here to stay, says Fidelity. A recent study found that:
On the flip side, James isn’t alone in his frustration. Financial planners and advisors have tried social media marketing — and it has failed many of them.
Here’s a summary from the 2017 Advisor Metrics report by Cerulli Associates.
I can’t speak for every advisor and every strategy. But based on my experience running an RIA and consulting with advisors, I believe that many just don’t know how to use social media.
As a result, their social media marketing is ineffective and expensive.
I don’t want to beat anyone over their head: this business is hard enough already. Advisors have to stay up to date on the technical side of investing, financial planning, and taxes. They must run their practices. They have to handle client emergencies. Learning about Facebook marketing strategies is at the bottom of the list.
To add to the pain, “what works” in marketing seems to shift all the time. This constant change pulls the rug from under you the moment you find your balance — which isn’t not the encouragement you need to keep going.
Here’s the good news. It’s possible for an advisor to spend less and improve Facebook marketing results. All you need is to stay clear of three common mistakes. These steps alone won’t give you top acceleration, but they will get you on the right path.
What? Isn’t social media supposed to be the ultimate tool for building an audience for your business?
Yes, but not in the way you think.
People must like and trust YOU before they feel comfortable enough to do business with your firm. Starting a relationship with a prospect by introducing them to your business page is a mistake. Let them meet and get to know the real you first!
This “human first” approach can work better with the Facebook algorithm, too. A recent change in the coding favors personal brands over company pages. This means that the Facebook page for your advisory practice has been downgraded and shown in people’s feeds less frequently than your personal page.
How do you make the algorithm work for you? No, you don’t have to sacrifice your personal page to the gods of Facebook. There is no need to open up your private life for inspection by strangers.
One strategy is to create a “public figure” page for yourself. Build an audience there through blogs, videos, and marketing funnels. After the prospect gets to know you, you can re-target him with company materials. This approach can save you up to 50% of your marketing costs — and it tends to be quite effective.
The superpower of Facebook as a platform is in its ability to zoom in on your ideal prospects.
The downside? This superpower is useless if your target audience is “anyone who can sign a check”, or even “anyone who’s looking for retirement planning”. Broad appeal is a good way to burn through tens of thousands of dollars at warp speed.
What works better? Define the people you want to serve. Build expertise in that area through your writing and videos. Set a publishing calendar to train your audience to expect your content in their feed.
If you do that, the money you spend on marketing will bring in more people who resonate with your offering. No, it doesn’t mean that they will all become paying clients on the day they follow you on Facebook (see Mistake # 3 below). However, they may get value out of your materials and begin to build a virtual relationship with you.
“Always be selling” is terrible advice when it comes to advisor Facebook marketing.
Here’s a commonly quoted stat. It takes, on average, 7-9 interactions with a brand before a prospect is ready to do business with you. Facebook can be a great medium to build a virtual audience. It gives your prospects a comfortable space to interact with you and your offering. If you swoop in with your hard-close techniques, you are much more likely to turn them away.
Michael Kitces has recently shared a useful re-frame of this subject. You might think of the client acquisition process in three distinct phases. There’s building awareness, encouraging engagement, and, finally, closing with acquisition. If you are curious about this approach, you should listen to the podcast linked above.
To summarize, the key to success is remembering what you are trying to do at any given point. Failing to invite prospects to take an action is a mistake — but doing it too soon can backfire.
In short, don’t give up on Facebook. It can be a gold mine for raising your visibility and building an audience. And no, you don’t need extravagant budgets. Facebook marketing can be remarkably cost-effective!
To make it work for you, remember three key things.